WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday that it “welcomes” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement Thursday that Israel will curb its settlement construction as a gesture of good will toward President Donald Trump, who seeks to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
“The Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concerns into consideration,” a White House spokesman told The Times of Israel. “The United States welcomes this.”
Netanyahu’s announcement came hours after the security cabinet approved plans to establish a new settlement in the West Bank for families evicted from the razed Amona outpost last month after the High Court of Justice ruled it had been built illegally on private Palestinian land.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. However, if legal, security or topographical limitations do not allow adherence to those guidelines, new homes will be built outside the current settlement boundaries but as close as possible to them.
Israel will also prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts, Netanyahu told his ministers Thursday.
The new settlement will be Israel’s first in some 25 years. While Israel stopped establishing new settlements in the early 1990s, after the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed, some outposts constructed since then have been given retroactive approval, and existing settlements have expanded their geographical parameters.
A White House official told The Times of Israel Thursday after the new settlement to replace Amona was approved by the security cabinet that the administration expected Israel to heed Trump’s request.
A White House official also warned Friday that “while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace.”
Since assuming office last January, Trump has made clear his intent to broker a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. And while his administration has appeared to be more tolerant of Israeli settlement activity, Trump did make clear last month, at their joint press conference, that he wanted Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a bit.”
Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, recently returned from his second trip to the region, in which he met with a number of stakeholders in the decades-long conflict and attempted to reach a broad understanding with Israel about restraining its settlement activity.
These talks have not yet resulted in any formal agreement between the two allies.